Photo by Jim O’Connor/USA Today Sports Images
By RYAN TOLMICH
HARRISON, N.J. – Seven years after the mark was set, the New York Red Bulls have a new single-season goalscoring record holder.
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his 19th and 20th goals of the season Saturday, breaking the franchise record, as the Red Bulls scored three unanswered second-half goals to pick up a 4-2 victory over the Impact at Red Bull Arena. Wright-Phillips was joined on the scoresheet by Thierry Henry, who bagged a brace of his own to go with an assist.
Wright-Phillips scored the record-breaking goal in second-half stoppage time, with a curling effort that swerved out of the reach of Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush. The Englishman’s finish, his second of the day, broke the single-season record set by former Red Bull Juan Pablo Angel in 2007.
“I went into the game thinking about it, I can’t lie,” Wright-Phillips said. “At first, I just wanted to get up front. We went a goal down so I just wanted to get the goal, I didn’t care who it was. After we went up, I started think about it, maybe getting a goal or two.”
Wright-Phillips did end up getting his goals, but the game’s opening moments appeared to be a sign that it just wouldn’t be the forward’s night.
Just moments after miss-hitting a shot in front of an open net, Wright-Phillips thumped a header on frame on the ensuing corner kick. The Englishman’s header had the velocity, but not the aim, as Bush successfully blocked away the close-range effort.
“It’s too early in the game to think that,” Wright-Phillips said when asked if he took his early game struggles as an omen. “I just thought that I was getting chances. I was unlucky. It was a great ball by Lloyd ( Sam), the defender or the keeper did well to get a touch on it. I actually thought it was going to be a decent night.”
Wright-Phillips’ early positivity was erased late in the first half, as it was the Impact that opened the scoring in the 37th minute through midfielder Dilly Duka.
With Red Bulls defender Chris Duvall marking tightly, the New Jersey native cut onto his left foot and fired a missile past Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles on the near post. The finish was Duka’s first of the season, with his last goal coming last September, when he was a member of the Chicago Fire.
The Red Bulls pulled level just eight minutes into the second half via a spectacular diving header from Henry.
Henry’s equalizer came by way of an Eric Alexander cross, as the Red Bulls midfielder found room on the right side. Alexander’s cross tailed toward the penalty spot, where Henry dove through and headed to the far post to even the scoreline.
“I was hoping (Alexander) was going to see me when he cut back,” Henry said of his finish. “He played the ball very short and I just gambled. Usually, I like to stay behind the guy and I went in front of him and I scored. Sometimes you have to gamble. I was just hoping it would cause a goal and it did.”
The Frenchman added his second in the 67th minute, curling past Bush to give the Red Bulls the 2-1 lead.
After exchanging a series of passes with Dax McCarty at the top of the box, the 36-year-old Henry took aim at the far post. Henry’s shot took a hop and skidded past a diving Bush before clanging off the post and in for Henry’s seventh goal of the season.
“It doesn’t really surprise me,” Wright-Phillips said of his fellow goalscorer. “They’re great finishes and he makes them look so easy and I think we needed that today. The captain stood up, got us back in the game and ahead. I think we went on from there.”
The Frenchman’s goal was his ninth goal in five games against the Impact, as Henry has scored in every game he’s played against the Canadian side.
“Perhaps it’s a French thing,” joked Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke after the game. “Thierry, for those two goals, picked the team up and put them on his back. He was not going to lose this game and he sparked it.”
Wright-Phillips bagged his first of the night moments later with Henry once again playing catalyst. The Frenchman found a streaking Wright-Phillips in the 75th minute, and Wright-Phillips made no mistake by finishing to give his side the 3-1 lead.
The insurance goal proved vital for the hosts, as the Impact pulled within one in the 79th minute by way of Andres Romero.
The Impact midfielder was played through by defender Wandrille Lefevre, as the Impact caught the Red Bulls on the break. Romero struck a curler that snuck past a diving Luis Robles, pushing the scoreline to 3-2.
With time dwindling, Wright-Phillips put the game out of reach in stoppage time by curling past Bush yet again to push the lead to 4-2, earning himself a record and his team a crucial three points.
The Red Bulls will now turn their gaze towards the CONCACAF Champions League, where they will take on the same FAS side that was defeated by the Impact earlier this week. Meanwhile, the Impact next face the Columbus Crew, who will pay a visit to Stade Saputo next weekend.
Here are the match highlights: